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What to look for in the benchmark results
We'll be looking for two things today—whether GeForce FX is actually any faster on nForce3, and whether NVIDIA's platform optimizations have hurt the performance of ATI's Radeon 9800 XT. To expose any performance differences, I've tested a GeForce FX 5950 Ultra and Radeon 9800 XT on nForce3 250Gb and K8T800 platforms. By looking at the performance differences between the K8T800 and nForce3 250Gb with each graphics card, we can see if NVIDIA's optimizations make the GeForce any faster or the Radeon any slower.

To keep things manageable, I've limited our testing to a subset of our standard chipset benchmarking suite. We'll be looking at gaming and 3D workstation graphics performance exclusively.

Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least twice, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Athlon 64 3200+ 2.0GHz
Front-side bus HT 16-bit/800MHz downstream
HT 16-bit/800MHz upstream
Motherboard Abit KV8-MAX3 NVIDIA reference
North bridge VIA K8T800 NVIDIA nForce3 250GB
South bridge VIA VT8237
Chipset drivers VIA Hyperion 4.51 NVIDIA 4.08
Memory size 512MB (1 DIMM)
Memory type Corsair XMS3500 DDR SDRAM at 400MHz
Hard drive

Western Digital Raptor WD360GD Serial ATA hard drive
Maxtor 740X-6L 40GB 7200RPM ATA/133 hard drive

Audio VT8237/VT1616 nForce3 250GB/ALC655
Graphics ATI Radeon 9800 XT with Catalyst 4.3 drivers
GeForce FX 5950 Ultra with ForceWare 56.72 drivers
OS Microsoft Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 1, DirectX 9.0b

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. If you're looking to tweak out your system to the max and maybe overclock it a little, Corsair's RAM is definitely worth considering. We ran all the systems with 2-7-3-3 memory timings.

The test systems' Windows desktops were set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Our tests and methods are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.